Monthly Archives: January 2013

January 25, 2013 – Lessons Learned

When I started this blog back in January of 2012, it was my intent to make at least one trip to Beaver Lake in my canoe each month of the year. Mission accomplished! In my last blog post, I said that I had been out 16 times. Well, I lied. The truth is, after going through my notes and counting one trip in a power boat with my friend Jim Wimberly and one trip hiking the shoreline, I discovered I was on Beaver Lake 20 times during 2012!

Looking back, I can tell you I learned a few things. For one, canoeing solo on a lake in heavy wind is not pleasant. Ergo, this month has conspired to keep me off of the lake. While temperatures have been mild enough, the wind has been howling. And when one weekend did turn out to be suitable for an adventure, I was called out of town on personal business. So I start 2013 by looking back at 2012.

I took my first trip last year on Jan. 21, when I put in at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission landing below the Highway 45 bridge. Sometimes this landing is lake and sometimes river depending on the surface elevation of Beaver Lake. On this day, it was about a half mile down river to where the lake began. Along the way, I passed the confluence of the White River with Richland Creek. It was cold but bearable, and quiet.

In February, I put my canoe in at a wide spot on Habberton Road and paddled out to the lake at Neill’s Bluff. Traveling down-lake, Neill’s Bluff is likely the first feature that you would recognize as a bluff. I have always liked bluffs. But it was on this trip when I started to realize that bluffs were the defining feature of Beaver Lake.  A bald eagle flying overhead graced the trip as well as a flock of squawking geese. Otherwise it was quiet and cold.

Ah spring! That’s when things started happening! During March, a flood mid-month caused the lake elevation to rise to 1126 feet. The water turned yellowish brown from silt and flotsam floated everywhere. March 24 was mild enough that I was able to talk Sharon, my wife, into going along. We put in at the Blue Springs launching ramp and paddled upstream along Cedar Bluff. Wildflower season was just kicking in. Once again, the base of the bluff was where it was happening. These areas are inaccessible to shore side access so wildflowers grow in every little batch of dirt.

We liked it so much that we went out again on the 25th and then I made a solo trip on the 29th. Boats were becoming more numerous and the birds were raucous. The wildflower show continued through April and into May.

During April we made two trips to the Beav-o-Rama area. Along the towering bluffs across from Beav-o-Rama, we discovered large crevices and spires and even a small natural bridge. It seemed that every flat spot on the bluff above the waterline contained a couple of geese preparing for a family. High up on the bluff, rock cedars hung on to whatever they could. The water was becoming more clear, but still murky.

In May, you might say I went “to the birds” (I’m getting all Ralph Waldo Emerson here). On my trip to the bluffs north of Blue Springs Village, I counted 18 different species including a Baltimore oriole. I spent a good bit of the morning chasing a momma wood duck and five wood ducklings along the base of the bluff. They outran me. It was a blast!

By June, there was no question that we were in for a long dry summer. Temperatures were up and mornings were the time for canoeing. Later in the day, folks on Jet Skis and wake boards ruled the water. The lake was dropping and more shoreline was becoming exposed. Where I had been right next to the shoreline vegetation earlier, I was now five to 10 feet below. Birds were still abundant, but not so raucous. On the 23rd of June, I explored the War Eagle arm near Hickory Flat. Red headed woodpeckers made the day, and would continue to do so for several weeks. I made two additional trips in June, one from War Eagle marina on the White River arm and another to Hogscald Holler down-lake. It was interesting to note the change in character of the lake from the upper end, where I had been exploring, and the wide open water near Hogscald. Almost every trip we saw deer.

July and August brought more of the same. Since it was hot, we made a point of getting out early. During July, my friends Steve Patterson and Thad Scott went along on a trip to Van Hollow. Later, I made three trips to the Hickory Creek area. Van Hollow is a special place located about mid-lake. The Hobbs Estate State Park and Conservation area protects several miles of shoreline. As you might imagine, local wildlife take full advantage of the solitude.

The bluffs in the Hickory Creek area are, in my opinion, the most spectacular on the lake. Maybe it is because the deeper water puts you right at the face of the bluff. The rock formations make arches overhangs. The colors include grays, whites, orange/yellow and blues. The water level continued to drop. While the water was clearer than earlier in the year, it continued to have a green color.

On Aug. 9, Jim Wimberly and I took his motor boat down lake and then up to the headwaters of Indian Creek. The Nature Conservancy and the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission recently purchased a track of land here called the Devil’s Eyebrow. The purchase protects about 3 ½ miles of protected shoreline in Indian Creek.

All summer, I had looked forward to fall with anticipation of a burst of color and perfect weather. Maybe it was because of the drought, but the fall color disappointed this year. And I was surprised by the amount of wind. Rain returned to the area briefly.

On Sept. 15, I made a solo trip out from Beav-o-Rama in the rain where I observed two families of beavers going about their business. On Sept. 23, Steve Patterson, Sharon and I paddled into Nelson Hollow, where we explored the rock formations, including a cave that we could paddle into in our 17-foot canoe. Then, we fought the 20 mile-per-hour wind back to the car near Hickory Creek.

In October, the world was quiet. Sharon and I paddled along in the Blue Springs Village area. The wind in November kept me off the lake completely. I did hike to Shaddox Hollow where I observed Langmuir Streaks.

As winter approached, the winds continued and it became necessary to pick trips where the bluffs provided shelter. On Dec. 23, Sharon and I headed out for one last trip to the War Eagle arm, where we hugged the bluff along the south side for protection from the southwest wind. The Eagles were back. Nice.

If there was one thing that surprised me about my year observing Beaver Lake, it was the amount of undeveloped shoreline. I should have known that because I have been on Beaver literally hundreds of times, but I never before took time to get up close and look. I’m glad I did.

Board Meeting-January 17, 2013

Beaver Water District’s Board of Directors will meet at noon on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at 301 N. Primrose Road, Lowell, AR.

Tentative Agenda

1. Meeting Call to Order 2. Approval of minutes of previous regular meeting 3. Election of Officers 4. Presentation – 2012 Audit 5. Recommendation – Final Change Order – Archer Western Construction, LLC 6. Recommendation – Black & Veatch Engineering Contract – Generator Study 7. Recommendation – Fayetteville Nutrient Agreement 8. Other Business  • Steele-Croxton Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Joseph Gerke and   Guest, Emily Williams, UA College of Engineering  • Article – AWWA Journal – Co-authored by Josh Giovanetti, Leslie B. Massey, Brian E. Haggard, and Robert A. Morgan – “Land Use Effects on Stream Nutrients at Beaver Lake Watershed”

December 23, 2012 – War Eagle Arm

Eagles are no longer rare in Arkansas and especially not on Beaver Lake. But seeing two sitting side by side is still a thrilling experience. That is exactly what happened the Sunday before Christmas when Sharon and I made our last visit of the year to Beaver. To make matters even better, just around the bend a third eagle was flying across the lake and was heading in the direction of the first two. Perhaps a great eagle convention was being called or maybe it was just coincidence. At any rate, it made my day.

Two eagles sitting side by side made my day!

Our trip started early, about 9 a.m. As it turned out, we had completed all of the Christmas shopping and decorating, and family wasn’t arriving until Christmas Eve. And it was too early to start cooking. So why not go for a spin on the lake? After all, the canoe was already loaded on the truck! We headed out. Our put-in was on the War Eagle arm of Beaver Lake, at the end of Washington County Road 502, also known as Natural Walk Road. The name refers to a stone feature along War Eagle Creek that resembles a flat sidewalk alongside the stream.

It was cold, but not terribly so. We both bundled up in several layers of polypropylene and fleece. Then we added our PFDs (personal floatation device) and windbreakers over the top. There was a light wind out of the southwest. The wind was predicted to pick up to 10 to 15 miles per hour during the day, but this particular reach of the War Eagle arm has a big bluff along the southwest shore, meaning we would be sheltered. When we arrived, there were several trucks parked alongside the road with boat trailers. From the put-in, we could see several groups of people fishing. Like us, they were likely also taking advantage of the day to get in one last visit to the lake.

A grey squirrel forages for nuts along the rocky shoreline.

The eagles were actually just around the corner from the put-in. I was watching a grey squirrel forage for nuts along a rocky shoreline when I heard this strange squeaking noise overhead. Looking up at the top of the bluff, there was a tree sticking out over the water. The two eagles were sitting roughly 50 feet over our heads. Had the squirrel looked up, he likely would have scurried for cover quickly. After snapping a few photos, we paddled on, heading upwind in order to have an easy return trip.

The thing that makes Beaver Lake unique is the many rock features at the shoreline. In the upper end of the lake, there is a sheer bluff on almost every bend. The lake comes right up against these bluffs. The interaction of water and rocks is always fascinating. At times, water spouts when larger boat wakes hit holes in the rocks. Most of the bluffs are various shades of grey. Some are very tall. Along this reach of the War Eagle arm, the bluffs are not as high, but they are rugged and colorful.

A layer of shale at the waterline along the War Eagle Arm of Beaver lake is strikingly jet black in color. Then, layering (likely from minerals) creates oranges and even reds.

A layer of shale at the waterline is strikingly jet black in color. From there, the layering becomes more complex, exposing minerals, likely iron, that leach out creating oranges and even reds. On this day, the slopes above the bluffs were covered with deep green vegetation that turned out to be chickweed. The combination of color and ruggedness made for some stunning scenes.

During 2012, I was able to make 16 trips to Beaver Lake in the canoe. My trips covered most of the lake, from the headwaters near Goshen to Friendship Creek north of the Hickory Creek Marina plus a couple of trips down lake. In all, I paddled about 60 miles, or just over 10 percent of the shoreline, but there’s lots left to explore. Stay tuned in here.

NW District Officers, Awards for Water/Wastewater Announced

The Northwest District of the Arkansas Water Works and Water Environment Association (AWW&WEA) elected the following officers for 2013: Stacy Cheevers of Beaver Water District, Chair; Roman Rios of City of Bentonville, Vice Chair; and James Clark of Springdale Water Utilities, Secretary/Treasurer. Additionally, the following were presented with awards: Bob King, Prairie Grove Water Utilities, Water Operator Less than 5000 Population; Terry Edwards, Rogers Water Utilities, Water Operator More than 5000 Population; Stacy Cheevers, Beaver Water District, Manager of the Year Water; XNA-Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, Small System Award Water; Aaron Watkins, City of Fayetteville, Laboratory Professional Water; Robert Pugsley, Buffalo National River, Wastewater Operator Less than 5000 Population; Loren Sharp, Springdale Water Utilities, Wastewater Operator Greater than 5000 Population; Rick McClain, Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority, Manager of the Year Wastewater; Buffalo River, Small System Award Wastewater; Erin Snook, City of Bentonville Wastewater Utilities, Laboratory Professional Wastewater; Roman Rios, City of Bentonville Wastewater Utilities, Pretreatment Professional Wastewater; and Tim Luther of CH2M Hill was recognized for his year of service as Chair of the NW District of AWW&WEA. Visit nwd-awwwea.org for more information.